TesseracT’s last record, 2018’s Sonder, affirmed them as one of the UK’s premier progressive metal bands. Five years on, the expectation for a follow-up is immense. Perhaps it’s why, inspired by the immersive audio-visual experience they crafted with Portals over lockdown, they pushed themselves to see how far they could take a concept album. The result is War Of Being – not only TesseracT’s most accomplished record to date, but it’s one that adds greater extravagance, wonder and distinction to their already wide-ranging sound.
It’s also their heaviest album yet. A ferocity fuels vocalist Daniel Tompkins throughout, with pitched screams his new secret weapon, unleashed between bouts of stunningly executed clean vocal melodies, which expand their music to seismic sizes. Yet, where other bands could be accused of diluting their appeal with abrasive turns, TesseracT exude their aggression with a drive that helps give more purpose to the record’s sizable concept – a sci-fi tale of two beings named Ex and El, lost in a world called The Strangeland, that’s a metaphor for the struggle and uncertainty we all have within ourselves.
That sense of struggle permeates every moment of War Of Being. Natural Disaster arrives all guns blazing, launching off a gigantean, grinding riff before drummer Jay Postones – who excels with intricate and unpredictable but flowing rhythms throughout - bastardises its chorus with a jittering off-time beat. It sets a precedent early on of tricks and tropes that haunt the record, all designed to catch the listener off guard in different ways. The Grey’s stabbing riffwork syncopates with rhapsodised screams and soaring hooks as the band mould their heightened heaviness into the groove-led sound that dominated much of Sonder.
But War of Being isn’t all brawn, as Tender and Sirens, placed either side of the rampant statement of the 11-minute title track, prove with delicious delicacy. On the former, Tompkins is beautifully vulnerable, his heart laid bare above such minimalist instrumentation. The latter, meanwhile, delves deeper into electronic atmospherics while Postones continues to evolve its heartbeat in deceiving ways. He underpins the song’s ornate melodies with a frenetic quality, which feeds tangibly into the record’s concept.
The sumptuous slow-burner Burden is underpinned by Amos Williams’ slick bass lines, while closer Sacrifice is a siege of sharply swaying riffs and gorgeously space-age production. The irony is that, on a record underpinned by such a strong sense of uncertainty, musically the band have never sounded more ferociously aware of their own identity.
War Of Being is available in multiple formats via Kscope.